Tuesday marked 153 years since slaves in Texas first learned they’d been freed.
On June 19, 1865, Union Army General Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 on Galveston Island, announcing to the people of Texas, “all slaves are free.”
Kilgore residents got an early start remembering the anniversary of the news, parading through downtown Saturday morning to celebrate freedom at Kilgore City Park.
With Kilgore Fire Department’s Honor Guard leading the way and emergency responders escorting the line of revelers, officials, antique vehicles and more, 2018 Juneteenth Queen Jasmine Wilson smiled brightly and waved to those who cheered the day from Main Street sidewalks.
Shaketia Lilly and Pauline Morgan arrived at the event bright and early, heading to Kilgore City Park immediately after the Juneteenth parade rolled along Main Street from Lawrence to turn right on North Kilgore Street then right again on North Street.
Visitors flowed in, tents rose, grills smoked and speakers were wired to finish the initial preparations for the party. There was time to spare for Lilly, Morgan and other guests before the official 11 a.m. start of the ‘Fun in the Park’ portion of the 2018 freedom fest.
“Just enjoying being out here,” Lilly said with smile, watching the steadily-building hum of activity.
It was especially key for Morgan to watch the growing number of children and youths in the park, those who were familiar with Juneteenth and those who were experience the memorial for the first time.
“I think it’s essential because our young people have not been exposed to all that,” Pauline Morgan said. “In order for them to learn history, they have see history being made.”
Juneteenth events have now been staged in Kilgore for five years, consecutively, part of the Kilgore Legacy Foundation’s ongoing effort to celebrate black heritage and to educate the current generation and the next about the past.
“That’s what this event is about,” Morgan said, spotlighting the past. “In the age of technology, they would never see anything like this if we didn’t put this on.”